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NATM Forecasts $4 Billion Year

3/17/2006 10:50:00 AM Eastern

Hollywood, Fla. — A wave of new store openings and explosive sales of digital TVs and laundry products will propel the NATM Buying Corp. past the $4 billion volume mark this year, group officials said here yesterday during what is the organization’s last annual March meeting.

Bill Trawick, president and executive director of the 12-member white- and brown-goods buying group, said NATM sales soared $400 million, to $3.6 billion, during its current CE fiscal year, which ends this month, and will likely grow by another $550 million over the next 12 months.

Driving the gains were a 65 percent spike in units sales of digital TVs and a 10 percent increase in majap unit volume. What’s more, dollar volume for white goods grew at twice the pace of unit sales, reflecting a brisk business in premium appliances.

“It was another phenomenal year,” Trawick said.

The good times will continue to roll in 2006, he said, thanks to continuing consumer demand and storefront build-outs by each of its powerhouse regional dealers. These include:

  • A new Cowboy Maloney outlet store, which opened last month in Biloxi, Miss.;

  • Two new Grants locations, expected to open shortly in the Chicago retail market, that will bring its store count to 10;

  • A major expansion of Nebraska Furniture Mart’s CE and majap department at its flagship facility in Omaha, Neb.;

  • Boscov’s recent acquisition of 10 former Macy’s locations;

  • The start of construction on BrandsMart U.S.A.’s third Atlanta superstore; and

  • Two new R.C. Willey units, including last month’s Reno, Nev., opening, and the company’s first California store, located in Sacramento, that’s set to open in June.

On the CE side, Trawick said the group will maintain its current lineup of core video vendors, consisting of Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba, and may add LG to the short list due to its growing role with individual members. NATM will also begin exploring the possibility of direct sourcing a promotionally priced flat-panel TV and/or accessories line out of Asia due to the high margins they afford. Several members already source directly from Chinese factories, noted operations director Michael Maund, who is spearheading the effort.

Trawick said he feels confident that NATM dealers will receive their fair share of flat-panel supplies this year and is backing that up by asking for commitments from core vendors. He said NATM dealers fared better on that front than others last year due to steady supplies from suppliers Samsung and, to a smaller extent, Hitachi and LG.

In white goods, the year has already started out strong with majap dollar volume up 25 percent in January and February and unit sales ahead 15 percent to 16 percent. Dealers are enjoying added lift from front-loading laundry, particularly the new, aggressively priced line from GE. “It’s an absolute home run for us,” Trawick said.

In other NATM news, the group is considering bringing on a 13th member, who would be joining from another buying organization.

The NATM meeting, which runs through this weekend at the Westin Diplomat Resort, also marks the group’s last annual conclave in March. NATM will continue to hold its directors’ meeting in January during International CES, and will meet with core suppliers next March. But the next annual group meeting will not be held until Fall 2007, when members and vendors convene at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Dallas from Sept. 26-29.

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